Improbable Escapes – The Hot Chocolate Incident [Hivemind Review]

The Hot Chocolate Incident is a digital avatar-led escape game, designed for livestream play, created by Improbable Escapes in Kingston, ON.

Santa sitting beside a Christmas tree reading.

Format

Style of Play: digital avatar-led escape game, designed for livestream play

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection, pen and paper, scissors

Recommended Team Size: 2-5

Play Time: 60 minutes

Price: $25 CAD per player, plus tax.

Booking: book online for a specific time slot

Description

The Hot Chocolate Incident is an avatar-led game hosted in Zoom with a separate website interface for maps, close-up photos, and helpful diagrams. The avatar interacts with a physical space, but the game was designed specifically for online play.

You’ve been recruited to help Jingles the Elf (your in-room avatar) help save Christmas by remotely solving puzzles in Santa’s Workshop.

The control console fo Santa's sleigh.

Hivemind Review Scale

REA's hivemind review scale - 3 is recommended anytime, 2 recommended in quarantine, 1 is not recommended.

Read more about our Hivemind Review format.

Cara Mandel’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

This was so dang cute!! Seriously. If you’re at all a fan of Christmas or Santa Claus or elves or just charming holiday fun, then do yourself a favor and play The Hot Chocolate Incident. Our team was smiling the whole time. The game was designed for avatar play and contained some adorable moments that were well suited for the format of Zoom video. I really enjoy when online games make good use of their medium rather than trying to work around it. This game leaned into the limitations of virtual play to delightful effect. Our elf avatar was adorable and cheery and kept our holiday spirits high throughout the game. This family-friendly game is a must-play seasonal treat, in my humble opinion.

Jingle the exuberant elf gamemaster.

Theresa Piazza’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

The Hot Chocolate Incident is a cute, Christmas-themed escape room that would be great for kids and families, or experienced escape room players looking for holiday themed puzzling. Overall, the gameplay was delightful. As a player you have most of the information you need to solve the room’s puzzles up front, so the game relies on you not skipping ahead and opening web pages you aren’t trying to solve yet. The in-game avatar played the role of an elf very well, and the space was well themed, allowing players to really believe they were in Santa’s Workshop. If you’re looking for something to do with family or new escape room players this holiday season, I recommend booking The Hot Chocolate Incident.

Matthew Stein’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

The Hot Chocolate Incident is the definition of adorable, and it’s a fantastic family-friendly holiday game. After being enthralled by Improbable Escape’s magical set design aesthetic in the remote adaptations of their in-person games (albeit with significant FOMO for not being physically immersed in those sets) it was satisfying to see an equally high level of visual world building applied to this remote exclusive, with a set and interactions designed carefully around housing a remote avatar. And what an avatar it was! Our elf-atar remained fully committed to an amusing character throughout, and this was one case in which the bumbling avatar trope not only worked, but actually drove the narrative forward. The gameplay was quite easy and straightforward – accessible for all ages and audiences – and it was cutely themed and well integrated in the physical environment, making it also very fun for anyone.

This game made a few notable design choices I want to call out as I think the mentality they embody would be of use to many other remote escape games.

  • Rather than cluttering the space with physical padlocks – a common aesthetic which requires meticulous inventory-keeping and often inhibits narrative – The Hot Chocolate Incident used a single interface for inputting almost all puzzle solutions. This streamlined the game’s structure and solution input flow in positive ways.
  • A sequence of search puzzles was built around mini ahas and an understanding of props visible around the room, not just lucky observation of randomly hidden objects. This approach is especially helpful for remote games, where the fun of in-person searching is often lost.
  • The avatar created an effective illusion that the game contained much more tech and automation than I suspect was actually built out – a wise use of resources for a set that players won’t actually be (mis)handling directly.

Fro’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

This game was adorable and wholesome and offered several jolly moments sure to get kids and adults alike into the holiday spirit. The standouts for me were a giant set piece that served as the focal point for our game, and our delightful avatar who played their part to perfection. I give this one points for originality with the story line and creative use of some classic toys. While it would have been fun to play this game in person, I think it wonderfully sums up a year where holiday magic still remains, even if our traditional ways of celebrating and connecting with each other look a little different.

Tammy McLeod’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

This game is delightful to look at, fun to play, and chock-full of Christmas cheer. The puzzles are well designed to fit the theme, and are refreshingly creative and cute. This game is also very family-friendly, with engaging interfaces, straightforward puzzles, and adorably over-the-top acting from the avatar.

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